Dub Is A Weapon
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Dub Is A Weapon

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band World Reggae


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"NYC Album Release Show Preview"

Their debut album may be titled Vaporized, but guitarist Dave Hahn's live dub/reggae combo plays turbulent psychedelic music more suitable for dancing than vaporizing the night away. Bassist Dan Jeselsohn fills in the low-end blanks alongside drummer Madhu Siddappa, while Hahn conducts the instrumental arrivals and departures that lend dub its spooky, spongy substance. - The Village Voice - 4/16/2011

"Weapon of Mass Dub-struction"

After being knocked out by some of this band’s online videos, it’s a joy to have a CD of theirs find its way to my front door. Dub is a Weapon is the fruition of an idea by Dave Hahn, a New York City guitarist and sound manipulator (or “dub organizer,” if you will) who’s played in such Jamaican-flavored outfits as the Slackers and David Hillyard and the Rocksteady 7. It was his vision to form a group that could play live dub (the remix offshoot of reggae) as deep and mind-bending as the studio creations of Jamaican masters like King Tubby. Sure, Vaporized is a studio recording, but it’s one done with the entire band playing together and Hahn’s dub effects rendered on the spot.
The results are dazzling. Let’s be clear, though- this is not just a copping of the classic Jamaican dub sound. The tempos tend to be a little faster than most reggae riddims, and there is an abundance of rockish lead guitar that further stretches the boundaries without breaking them.
Hahn’s guitar often shadows or trades melodic jabs with the tenor saxophone of Maria Eisen as hard-chopping grooves blaze away underneath, rhythm guitar and keyboards assail the offbeats, shots of echo and other brain-altering sounds are tweaked in and out and drums and bass seal it airtight. Deeper roots are provided by veteran Jamaican percussionist Larry McDonald, whose array of African, Caribbean, Latin and Brazilian accents punctuate perfectly.
The nine lengthy tracks are instrumentals save for “Forwarding Home” a Rasta-centric bit of reasoning nicely voiced by Rob Symeonn. There are numerous ways I could attempt to be clever in describing this sonic weaponry: that it’s dynamite, it’s fully loaded, it’s of a very high caliber, it’s killer, and so on. All would be applicable. But none would take the place of actually hearing it, something any lover of reggae and dub needs to do.
By Tom Orr - worldmusiccentral.org - 4/16/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

Dave Hahn, the head of Dub Is a Weapon, knows his Jamaican music. In addition to doing a tour of duty serving as the vie dub engineer on the Dub Side of the Moon tour and playing guitar in Dave Hillyard's band for a decade, he provided legendary Jamaican producer/performer Lee "Scratch" Perry with the best live backing band that ever supported the eccentric genius*. On Vaporized, which was mostly written by Hahn, the group takes the chassis of classic reggae and injects a little bit of NY punk rock heat under the hood in this mostly instrumental set.

"Turbulence", the opener, sets the tone for the album. As an energetic but heavy bass rumbles in the foreground, Hanh picks and flitters around his strings as spaced-out effects zoom in and out. While a lot of American-bred reggae unfortunately seems to paint a picture as this "love and peace, mon" caricature, Dub Is a Weapon acknowledge reggae's long history of sinister and twisting tunes. Vaporized is a dark album—the tempo marches forward at a slowly accelerating pace, the strings themselves seem to clang like whips, and strange noises leap out of nowhere and retreat just as quickly back into the ether.

Vaporized is most successful when they use the full force of their large ensemble. Interestingly, when the group leans on all of its instruments, the percussion of Larry McDonald (who has played with Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie, and many others) seems to cut through the shifting parts and adds a spooky, shambling quality on the top of the waves.

In some respects, though, Vaporized's strengths are also its weaknesses. Although Dub Is a Weapon is unique in adding an energetic paranoia to their music in a genre that has been watered down in the states, they never step back from their march. What made the works of early dub pioneers like King Tubby and Lee Perry, and even later students Scientist so great was their ability to pull back on the reigns, slow the music to a plod, and allow each sound to fully expand and drift away. In the energetic context of Vaporized, we don't get to savor the group's sonic elements so much as they surprise us and then jump back into the darkness.

Although reggae has a long, complex (and often self-contradictory) history, Dub Is a Weapon studies their lessons and apply the tactics of the greats. But while other groups stop here, Dub Is a Weapon pushes the envelope, injecting some of their own background into Jamaican music as opposed to making crude imitations. Vaporized doesn't replicate the works of earlier dub titans. But, by refraining to try duplicate the works of Tubby and Perry, Dub Is a Weapon show that they understand those great works better than those that go for strict imitation.
* - He also played guitar in MDC for a year, giving him some punk rock bona fides.
By John Gentlie - punknews.org - 4/26/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

Brooklyn's Dub Is a Weapon has created an album of kaleidoscopic sounds. Vaporized is a nine track record loaded with energy and creativity. With seven individuals, fronted by Dave Hahn, bringing a range of talents to the scene, it's not surprising that the album encompasses so much. They infuse reggae, funk, hip-hop and dub, providing a bit of everything for the listener.
The melodic and well-constructed grooves are incessant. Ben Rogerson shines on rhythm guitar and bass and Maria Eisen's tenor sax is intoxicating. Tracks like "Asheville" and "Persistence" are high energy and riddled with complex composition. The intricate combinations of percussion, key chords, and guitar create a more "in your face" sound than one might initially expect from this genre. More mellow tunes like "Destiny" and "Curve Pellagrous" help to maintain a balance and keep the album well rounded. The band keeps listeners hooked till the end, incorporating a wacky slide whistle and distantly echoing sax notes on "Insurrection."
There is a clear atmosphere created on Vaporized, one that reaches outside the normal boundaries of dub, and one that is thoroughly enticing and enjoyable. By Vanessa Bennett
- Performer - 4/28/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

Dub Is A Weapon, the brainchild of Brooklyn's Dave Hahn, is releasing the long-awaited "Vaporized" on April 26th and I must say, I've listened to the album a few times through and have picked up on different elements in the recordings each time. The aptly named 5-piece group from New York brings an edgy and aggressive sound to their slightly more uptempo brand of dub music that sets them apart from many others in the genre of modern dub. Much of what you hear on the album doesn't stray too much from the band's live performances and it's this ability to create "live" dub as a band that previously earned them a North American tour with the likes of dub forefather Lee "Scratch" Perry.
The album kicks off with "Turbulence" and the listener is immediately introduced to hard driven distorted guitar licks that reemerge throughout the album in the form of well-timed solos, muted bass lines and accompaniments to the horns. Though each musician is clearly skilled in their own right, DIAW stay true to original tenets of dub, leaving plenty of space for the tightly played drum and bass to create a steady and reliable groove for all other instrumentation and Hahn's well-timed and intelligent live mix and effects to build upon.
Another key aspect of the album that becomes readily apparent is the work of saxophonist Maria Eisen. In a genre where vocals are many times absent from the song, other instrumentation may play a larger, more impressionable role and this is just the case with the sax throughout "Vaporized". Be sure to check out the mesmerizing and soulful solos found on "Turmoil" and "Persistence". Larry McDonald's percussion is another area in which the album again establishes itself as a cut above many in the genre. The average listener may not pick up on the many different percussive elements until several listens in. "Forwarding Home" offers a change from the instrumental norm by introducing guest vocalist Rob Symeonn who does his part to contribute to a very chill track.
Whether its the more traditional slower tempo "Curva Peligrosa" or "Asheville" or the uptempo, danceable club tunes "Destiny" and "Persistance", the new DIAW album is sure to please dub fans young and old. Though this album is probably not one for you pop music fans out there, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys any sub genre of reggae/dub.
From the Black Ark days of Lee Perry to Tubby's Waterhouse dubs and discipleship of King Jammy, it's good to see that DIAW are carrying on the torch for dub fans worldwide. "Vaporized" not only exemplifies the evolution of dub but pays tribute to its history by retaining key characteristics that make quality dub music what it is. Visit their website and grab up some of their free live downloads for further listening!
By Chuck Reinemann - MusicBailOut.net - 4/27/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

After being knocked out by some of this band’s online videos, it’s a joy to have a CD of theirs find its way to my front door. Dub is a Weapon is the fruition of an idea by Dave Hahn, a New York City guitarist and dub organizer who’s played in such Jamaican-flavored outfits as the Slackers and David Hillyard and the Rocksteady 7. It was his vision to form a group that could play live dub as deep and mind-bending as the studio creations of Jamaican masters like King Tubby. Sure, Vaporized is a studio recording, but it was one done with the entire band playing together and Hahn’s dub effects rendered on the spot. The results are dazzling. But let’s be clear- this is not just a copping of the classic Jamaican dub sound. The tempos tend to be a little faster than most reggae riddims, and there is an abundance of rockish lead guitar that further stretches the boundaries without breaking them. Hahn’s guitar often shadows or trades melodic jabs with the tenor saxophone of Maria Eisen as hard-chopping grooves blaze away underneath, rhythm guitar and keyboards nail the offbeats, shots of echo and other brain-altering sounds are tweaked in and out and drums and bass seal it airtight. Deeper roots are provided by veteran Jamaican percussionist Larry McDonald, whose array of African, Caribbean, Latin and Brazilian accents punctuate perfectly. The nine lengthy tracks are instrumentals save for “Forwarding Home” a Rasta-centric bit of reasoning nicely voiced by Rob Symeonn. There are numerous ways I could attempt to be clever in describing this sonic weaponry: that it’s dynamite, it’s fully loaded, it’s of a very high caliber, it’s killer, and so on. All would be applicable. But none would take the place of actually hearing it, something any lover of reggae and dub needs to do. By Tom Orr - Jammin Reggae Archives - niceup.com - 4/26/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

The only downside to a studio recording of Dub Is A Weapon is the fact that you can’t see the band doing what they’re doing.
Taken just as it comes with no background on the band or knowledge of how the music was made, Dub Is A Weapon’s new Vaporized is easily enjoyed simply as an album of danceable dub.
The fact that these are all songs being performed live is the key to taking the enjoyment of DIAW’s music even further: the blending of melodic passages, improv journeys, rhythms, and counter rhythms are all governed by head, heart, soul, fingers, feet, and breath – rather than by a hand sliding the faders on a mixing board.
Think of the art of creating a dub mix of a given song as deconstructing and then reconstructing an already-recorded piece of music. The players may all still be there, but now they’re sonically reshaped. A front-and-center melodic theme is now a ghost that passes effortlessly through the piece, while a countermelody that was almost invisible in its original form washes over everything. Bass lines become the skin rather than the pulse; drums become voices for a moment, only to disappear and then return as bone. The song is the universe and the engineer is the Great Spirit; reality is reshaped by the faders.
What DIAW leader Dave Hahn has done is take the same approach to the process of dub as the pioneers of the genre did to the music they wanted to reshape all those years ago. If dub itself could be defined as electronically reconfiguring an organically-produced piece of music, then Hahn and his band have taken an organic approach to that electronic deconstruction/reconstruction process. The players are now the faders: sometimes Hahn cues the band’s sonic movement; sometimes they’re going by gut and the emotion of the moment.
Do you need to know all this to enjoy Vaporized? No.
But it does make what you’re hearing all the more impressive.
Probably the single biggest thing that dominates the nine cuts onVaporized is the fact that DIAW has managed to retain all the smoky sweetness of dub’s good herb while bumping up the rush of the riddim. This music will make you want to move, boys and girls – and that’s a fact.
You’ll want to do a slow weave to Maria Eisen’s amazing sax break on “Turmoil” that becomes the backbone without ever dominating the mix. On “Curva Peligrosa”, Hahn’s guitar patrols the perimeter of the rhythm village built by percussionist Larry McDonald and drummer Madhu Siddappa. Wave your hands high as Brian Jackson’s whirling, roaring, wailing keys on “Seven Doors” testify from the pulpit while Ben Rogerson weaves rhythm skanks with Dan Jeselsohn’s most-funky bass. And when guest Rob Symeonn lays down the album’s only vocals on “Forwarding Home”, it only adds to the track’s sway and hypnotic groove.
With Vaporized, Dub Is A Weapon has managed something that many attempt but never quite pull off: they’ve put their own spin on a long-established genre while handling it with the respect it deserves. And made you want to shake your butt at the same time.
Pretty damn cool.
by Brian Robbins - jambands.com - 4/27/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon’s Dave Hahn Gets Vaporized"

How do you describe dub versions of reggae music to someone who’s either never listened or (even tougher) has listened but doesn’t understand it? I recently gave it my best shot in a review of Dub Is A Weapon’s new Vaporized album:
“Think of the art of creating a dub mix of a given song as deconstructing and then reconstructing an already-recorded piece of music. The players may all still be there, but now they’re sonically reshaped. A front-and-center melodic theme is now a ghost that passes effortlessly through the piece, while a countermelody that was almost invisible in its original form washes over everything. Bass lines become the skin rather than the pulse; drums become voices for a moment, only to disappear and then return as bone. The song is the universe and the engineer is the Great Spirit; reality is reshaped by the faders.”
If that even begins to do the deed definition-wise, then swell. But how do you describe Dub Is A Weapon’s live-on-the-spot dub music? Well, you could take the explanation above and replace the faders with real, live human beings; fade-outs, blend-ins, and re-shapes are a function of fingertips, toes, breath, and a collective creative mind. Last night’s performance of a given tune is not going to be the same as tonight’s; and what was happening 30 seconds ago may never happen quite the same way again. (Or maybe it will.)
And ringmaster for it all is Dave Hahn, who rose to his own challenge of putting together a live dub band a decade ago. From backing reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry on stage to the release of Vaporized, it’s fair to say that Hahn and company have made it work in grand style. And they’re far from done.
Our interview with Hahn took place live from the sidewalks of New York City via cell phone. Only seconds into the conversation there was a sudden explosion of sirens, horns, and roaring engines as a pack of emergency vehicles raced by.
The cacophony faded; then there was a heartbeat of silence.
“You okay?” I asked, not sure if we were still connected.
“Wow,” answered Hahn, rather dreamily. “I should’ve sampledthat.” And then he laughed.
Ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls; children of all ages: we present Dave Hahn – a true dubmaster.
BR: Let’s start with talking about the path that led you to the world of dub. First of all, what got you started as a guitar player?
DH: Well, I got really fixated on Hendrix as a young kid. My dad had the original Woodstock album – it was a triple LP, right? It was the one that had all the people who performed there. Listening to Jimi on that really got me into wanting to play the guitar. In fact, I still use that kind of tone in the band.
BR: And what were you listening to for reggae as a lad?
DH: Actually, The Police.
BR: Really? I wasn’t expecting that. (laughter)
DH: Yeah – you can tell that they were heavily influenced by reggae if you listen to them in a deep way.
The first groups that I played with when I moved to New York were part of the ska scene in the late 90s, which really was a fusion of a few different things, with deference toward Jamaican music. Some of the bands I played with were into the Bosstones or No Doubt kind of sound – a little bit more punk rocky with the upbeat ska guitar riff. It had the Jamaican foundation.
BR: How about your first exposure to dub?
DH: I was playing in bands with a lot of older musicians at that point. We’d be driving in the band van and somebody would pop on a cassette of really trippy, say, King Tubby stuff – with all the echo and reverb drenched on it – and I’m like, “What is this?” (laughs) That’s when I started to seek out that kind of music. And that’s when I first got the idea: “Having a band that could do thiswould be really cool!”
BR: Ah – the scene of so many musical discoveries: the road trip in the band van. (laughter)
DH: Exactly! But, yeah, that’s where my interest in that sort of music came from. In 1999 I moved into a loft in Brooklyn and set up a music studio there. That’s where the idea of the group really began. At first, I did some experimental recordings; it was in 2001 that we really began the “band project,” so to speak. I was playing a lot with Antibalas at the time and there were a couple of good friends of mine from that band who I recruited, along with some people that I knew from the ska world. I started off just recording an album’s worth of material – it wasn’t as if we were going to be a band, per se, but then one of the guys who played on it said, “You ought to take this live, you know?” That’s when we began to work on creating the sound of what we’d done in the studio on stage … and I believe the first show was in November of 2001.
BR: Who of the current lineup was in that original band?
DH: Ben Rogerson, who’s now playing bass, was originally on guitar. I went to high school with Ben; he’s one of my oldest friends. When I was putting together the recording project in the loft, I borrowed people I knew from the scene but also wanted to get my friends involved. Ben also loaned me some recording equipment that helped get things off the ground.
Larry McDonald, who plays percussion in Dub Is A Weapon, was part of the original line-up, too. Larry’s my main partner in Dub, basically.
BR: I know Larry’s roots go right back to Jamaica and he’s played with a lot of folks over the years. Tell us a little bit about him; he sounds like an interesting cat.
DH: (laughs) He is, for sure. First of all, Larry didn’t actually start playing percussion until he was in his 20s.
BR: Really?
DH: Yeah – he’d been working as an accountant in Jamaica, actually … (laughter)
BR: Larry?
DH: Uh-huh. It’s this great mystical story that Larry tells about how he got into music. He and some friends were riding around and at a rest stop they changed seats. Five minutes later, they got into an accident and the guy who took the seat where Larry’d been sitting was killed.
BR: Oh, man …
DH: It was one of those moments where you start reevaluating your life, you know? “What am I doing? What do I want to be doing?” Larry had always wanted to play the congas and had never done it. After the accident, he decided to get a drum – and it changed his whole life.
He spent a lot of time recording in the industry down there in Jamaica. He tells some really funny stories of playing at the Playboy Club in Kingston – he was in a trio there. On any given night, they might be playing, like, in between comedy sets by Pat Morita, the guy that was in The Karate Kid or something … (laughter) Classic stories.
BR: Paying his dues, right?
DH: That’s right. And a lot of guys would have been happy just to stay right there in Jamaica, playing in the local reggae scene and getting what work they could. But Larry was just too musically curious to stay in Jamaica. The island was one thing, but he wanted to go to the US where all the best musicians were – he wanted to improve himself.
Larry went to the Bay Area in 1974 – I was born in Oakland in 1974, actually – and he ended up hooking up with Taj Mahal, touring around the country in an RV for a while.
BR: And at one point he played with Gil Scott-Heron, right?
DH: That’s right. That was in the late 80s.
Larry’s really somebody who’s “been there and done that” … it’s a really big compliment that someone that accomplished as a musician is involved with us, you know? The guy could be performing with lots of people, but he’s putting his time into Dub Is A Weapon and is such an integral part of the group.
I don’t really dictate what Larry does on stage. I write bass lines and melodies and stuff, but Larry is really there just to add his flavor – he can do whatever he wants. That may be part of why he’s with us; rather than be in some situation where you’re playing the same thing over and over and over for five minutes, he’s free to do his thing.
BR: That’s so cool. Let’s see … to get back to the band’s history, we should talk about when you had the opportunity to back Lee “Scratch” Perry on tour.
DH: I believe that happened around 2005 through 2007, off and on. I’d be lying if I said Lee wasn’t a big influence on what I do. Seeing him perform at the old Wetlands on Halloween of 1997 was definitely one of the things that got me thinking about performing dub live. The Mad Professor was doing the sound and dubbing out the band while Lee was doing his whole shamanistic routine on stage. It was all very cosmic, plus it was Halloween, so it was a really fun show. That night I probably thought, “You know what would be really cool? To start a dub band and work with Lee Perry.” It was amazing when we really did.
BR: How did you connect?
DH: It was almost like one of those classic “music business stories,” you know? It was like the scene in the movie when the band gets discovered. (laughs) We did this pretty lengthy tour that took us all the way down into Jacksonville, FL. And that Jacksonville show was … I don’t know … there were only about four or five people there. (laughs)
BR: Oh, no …
DH: Yeah, but there was one guy who was really interested in what we were doing. He bought, like, three CDs and four t-shirts and kept talking to me about the band’s history and all that stuff. A few months later, he e-mailed me and said, “Hey, I’m working on bringing Lee Perry over for some tour dates …” (laughter)
And that was it: we happened to play far enough south for this guy who had a contact with Lee to see us and he’s the one who made the match. He brought Lee over and hired us to back him.
It’s just one of those things: to be traveling that far from home and only have that many people come out to see you … and then everything come together. It’s all about timing and where you are.
BR: Everything happens for a reason, man.
DH: Exactly. And I think we played really well that night, even though there were only four or five people there.
That’s one of the things about this band: everybody is in it for the music and trying to make it be as good as it can be every night. We’re going to have a great time, no matter how big the audience is – five or five hundred. People who are just in it for the accolades or whatever are only happy if there are a lot of people – they need that.
BR: You mentioned seeing Scratch perform at Wetlands with the Mad Professor running the faders; now your band came into the picture with your live dub approach.
DH: I think of myself as being the chief dub organizer on stage, which requires a couple different things: you can’t “ride the faders” like you can in a studio, so I mimic that by cueing instrumentalists to come in and out – lay out for a few measures here; come back for a few measures here; and so on. Plus, all the instruments are wired through a mixing board that I have on stage, so I can add the dub effects that way, as well.
When we backed Lee, I just added another channel for him with his vocals going through my mixer and I’d dub him out and cue in the band like I would with my music. Lee had things he wanted us to do, but a lot of times I was trying to feed off what I was seeing in the crowd and feeling from the music … manipulating the band, so to speak, to complement what he was doing.
BR: I’m guessing you had to be on your toes with Lee.
DH: Oh, yeah – there was one night when Lee just decided he wanted the bass line to be different so he turned around, grabbed the neck of the bass, and started singing the bass line to my bass player. (laughs) Lee’s kind of a diminutive guy in stature – he’s like 5’-something – and Big Dan, our bass player, was 6’4” and weighed maybe 250, 260 lbs. It was pretty comical to watch.
BR: And the band line-up at that time?
DH: By then it was myself, Larry, Dan Jeselsohn on bass, and Ben on guitar – plus, we’d added Maria Eisen on tenor saxophone. David Butler was on drums – that was before Madhu Siddappa joined us. We also had a keyboard player who isn’t with us any more – a guy named Dave Wake, who’s playing with a couple of other cool groups in the Milwaukee area these days.
BR: Now that we have the core band established, let’s talk about the process of what you do. Recently, when I was writing a review of Vaporized, I described the art of creating a dub mix of a given song as deconstructing and then reconstructing an already-recorded piece of music. Is that a good way to put it?
DH: I think that’s exactly what it is. I don’t think enough people focus on the deconstruction/reconstruction part. They think more about the sound effects, you know what I’m saying?
BR: Yeah, I do. So I’m wondering if you write your songs specifically for the dub process – or do you come up with a good, solid song and then work out a dub arrangement?
DH: The dub arrangement is never worked out ahead of time at all; that’s totally off the cuff. I mean, there are some patterns that we follow with a certain amount of regularity, but the arrangement of the songs – when the elements are deconstructed and reconstructed, as you said – are something that I’m coming up with off the tip of my head. I’m feeling like the bass should be brought up here or the drums should drop out or we should have the rhythm guitar lay out – I’m just hearing these things in my head. It’s just like I’m in the studio and doing it with a mixing board. The songs are composed of a melodic statement, a chord progression, and a bass line.
BR: So the basic arrangement is a constant – and as far as the dub process goes, what goes down in any given performance is totally improvised?
DH: Exactly: the composed portions of it are the elements we just talked about – but the dub treatment is something that we’ll do differently every night of the week. I would hate to say it’s pure improvisation, because I don’t think that actually happens. When someone takes a solo, there are certain licks that they like to play, right? There are certain things that they go for – they have a repertoire of things they use.
And I think I have a repertoire of things that I use to orchestrate the deconstruction/reconstruction process … but it’s not pre-planned – it’s just done.
What’s cool is, when we first started playing, we really didn’t know how to do it – it was uncharted territory for everyone. But now that we’ve had an existing core lineup for a while, everyone kind of knows when to lay out and when to come back in. All the musicians have started to participate in that process because they’ve been in the band long enough. I’m still, like, the main arbiter of what happens … every now and then, I’ll turn and tell somebody to lay out, because that’s what I’m hearing right then and that’s what I want it to sound like.
It’s an improvisational thing. The way we drop in and out and the way the effects are added – that’s all done live. We recorded the album it like an old jazz record: we went in and did maybe three live takes for each tune and chose the one we liked the best.
BR: Cool – I’m a sucker for situations where the musicians are live in the studio, rather than e-mailing their parts in from opposite ends of the planet or whatever. So you are the “conductor” in a sense – you’re cueing people on when to drop back or blend in or whatever – but you’re also manipulating a mixing board at the same time during a performance, right?
DH: That’s right – and calling the role a “conductor” is right. I mean, that’s really what it is. What I oftentimes call it is being the “dub organizer.” What you’re trying to do in a live setting is control the individual players just as you would the faders on a mixing board in a studio. That’s what I’m trying to recreate on stage.
BR: Your primary instrument is guitar?
DH: That’s right.
BR: Do you have a go-to axe that you favor?
DH: I sure do: I have an Ibanez hollow-body that’s styled after a Gibson ES-175. I was really into jazz in high school – I idolized Wes Montgomery – and I wanted a hollow-body; a big jazz box. I’ve had that same guitar for 20 years or so now.
BR: And do you write on the guitar?
DH: Yeah, the guitar is usually the primary focus. I also own a bass and I’ll use that for working out the bass line. Actually, I wrote one of the songs on the new album – “Turmoil” – on piano. I was at my parents’ house and they have a piano. I was just goofing around on it and came up with that little lick that I liked … the melody isn’t so complicated on that tune, but I like the statement – it’s cool and to the point.
BR: Where these songs on Vaporized written primarily for the album, or had you had some of them in your pocket for a while?
DH: Well, I don’t know as I write songs for an album as much as when I have the inspiration to do so. I think most of these were written in 2006 or 2007. In general, I write when the inspiration’s there; it’s not like, “Oh – I need nine songs for an album.”
I think we recorded twelve songs in total and it ended up we could only fit nine on Vaporized.
BR: Ah! The beginnings of the next album. (laughter) That’s what people always ask, just as soon as you finish something, you know: “That’s nice. Now, what’s next?” (laughter)
DH: Hopefully, more of the same. (laughs) I don’t know, though – we may do something a little different. I think we’re going to try to incorporate some new things. For instance, I’ve started bringing a theremin to gigs. Actually, I’m playing a theremin on the last song on the record.
BR: Cool – I wondered if that wasn’t a theremin. Nothing else sounds quite like it.
DH: That’s right. I really like the sound of it – it’s a really great noise effect. I have some dub albums from the UK that have theremin all over them.
BR: I love the idea of the theremin, because it’s just not a matter of flipping a switch or pushing a button; you’re controlling it by how you work your hands around it … it has soul.
DH: Yeah – it’s responding to how far away your hands are from the antennas. It’s getting to the point where I’m getting that real “mad scientist” look: I have the mixing board, the theremin … (laughs) … it’s looking a little outlandish up there on stage, but it’s perfect for us.
BR: Dave, thanks for taking the time to talk. Words can’t really do the process of creating live dub justice, but hopefully we can spark the interest of some folks who’ve never put an ear to it before.
DH: We like our music, but I’m sure it isn’t for everyone … some people don’t really get into the repetitive elements that exist in what we play, but for people who like being hypnotized, it’s great. (laughs) And that’s kind of the way it is. By Brian Robbins
- jambands.com - 5/6/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

Dub originated in the recording studios of Jamaica as trippy reggae musicians experimented with the controls. In the digital age the idea of introducing the sonic dimension of dub to the stage is no longer especially remarkable, but NYC's Dub is a Weapon have built a reputation for doing just that. With Vaporized, the circle comes round as the group bring their live dub back to the studio. Deep reggae grooves and arresting melodies encounter the occasional flourish of soul organ, jazzy saxophone and rock guitar in an album at once a little spacey but thoroughly grounded in hip swaying rhythms. Vaporized is an enjoyable effort by a multigenerational crew with a good grip on the sounds of Jamaica. By David Luhrssen - expressmilwaukee.com - 4/5/2011

"Dub Is A Weapon - Vaporized Album Review"

Dub traditionally was the realm of producers and engineers with Magico-techno smarts harnessing tape delays and reverb washes, but here it has come unhinged from the studio and evolved under the live stage creativity of the musicians. Enter Dave Hahn, a seasoned sideman and dub engineer (the Slackers, Antibalas, Easy Star All-Stars, Lee Perry). Hahn has crafted a live dub record and it's a confrontational sound, to be sure. Not content to merely indulge in fader acrobatics, Vaporized is as much about solid instrumentals that stand on their own as it is about danceable beats or unique arrangements. Mephiskapheles bassist Dan Jeselsohn stands front and centre, as his crushing ostinatos lead the rest of the band through fear-inducing calls to arms like "Insurrection" and "Turmoil." Impressive dubscapes show up on "Curva Peligrosa" and "Asheville," but by far Vaporized's signature sound is a double-barrelled torrent of relentless groove. This is no armchair dub record to smoke along to; it's the sound of a smoking band cocking the trigger. A weapon, indeed. By Brent Hagerman - exclaim.ca - 4/28/2011

"Weapon of Choice"

Dub reggae is the most studio-oriented of musics; Just about all of its stars, from Lee Perry to King Tubby are D.J.'s and producers, not performers. So when the New York guitarist Dave Hahn decided to start a dub-reggae band, he faced more than the usual challenge of finding the right players. "The first question I asked myself was, how am I going to do this live?" Hahn remembers. "It seemed like it wasn't even possible, especially since I had zero technical knowhow." But Hahn set about learning the basics of production and enlisted friends from the snap-tight Afro-funk band Antibalas, of which he is a sometime member. The result was Dub Is A Weapon, a sprawling supergroup that combines the spacey atmospherics of dub with the brassy big-band soul of African pop. "It's sort of like starting all over, " Hahn says. "Most of the time onstage, I'm working effects, not playing guitar. But being behind the board gives you this kind of godlike feeling - everything's in your control." Not all the kinks have been worked out: The show at Makor on May 24 is only their eleventh performance, and they'll release their debut album later this summer. But that hasn't dampened Hahn's enthusiasm for dub, or for Dub Is A Weapon. "We're getting people to listen to and love a music that's usually only appreciated at home."

by Ethan Brown - New York Magazine - May 26, 2003

"Critic's Choice"

Some musicians live to show off their chops, making sure you're always aware of just how tricky the tricky parts are. But the guys in Brooklyn's Dub Is A Weapon don't seem to care a whit about impressing anyone. They come from a sprawling scene of overlapping funky New York bands (Antibalas, Fu-Arkist-Ra, Fire of Space) that are in it for the jams - they pack too many bodies onstage to support a lot of ego. On the group's debut (out on Dub Patrol) the personnel - hot-shit players all, including dub producer and guitarist Dave Hahn, Antibalas' Stuart Douglas Bogie on reeds, and legendary Jamaican percussionist Larry McDonald - radiate the laid-back confidence it takes to render these insanely syncopated stop-and-start grooves with grainy-film-stock warmth. Kaleidoscopic shifts break up the thick, slinky Afrobeat phrases with balmy bits of Rasta laissez-faire, metallic scrapes and twitters, chassis-rattling dub beats that stretch the limits of rhythm maintenance, and post Miles Davis psychedelia. A heavy-lidded haze hangs over it all, but still the album sparkles. This is the group's first performance in Chicago; Organ Wolf and Scale open. Saturday, January 10, 10pm, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.

by Liz Armstrong - Chicago Reader - January 9, 2004

"Get The Beat"

Dub is a bass-heavy sound that has its roots in reggae but somehow manages to outmellow reggae. Brooklyn-based Dub Is A Weapon blends dub, reggae and elements of jazz into a musical melange that New York Magazine says "combines the spacey atmospherics of dub with the brassy big-band soul of African pop."

The sprawling group is led by Dave Hahn, who earned his African-pop stripes as a guitarist with frequent Vermont visitors Antibalas. He's joined by Jamaican percussionist Larry McDonald, who's billed as "the group's spiritual godfather" thanks to his years of service with the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, Taj Mahal and Peter Tosh.

Dub Is A Weapon formed two years ago and, much like Antibalas, has built a strong following through frequent instrumental live performances, not only in its home base of New York but during its first full tour that took the group to cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago. The band will come to Vermont on Saturday for a show at the Starlite Lounge in Waitsfield.

by Brent Hallenbeck - Burlington Free Press - May 6, 2004

"Dub Dance Party"

Dub reggae has been called "the most spacey, sexual music there is."

Created in Jamaica in the 1960s, dub derived its name from the practice of dubbing instrumental, rhythm-oriented versions of reggae songs onto the B-sides of 45-rpm singles. The style became a legitimate form in its own right in the hands of pioneering producers such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry, who added their own signature touch to the stripped down sound with such hypnotic effects as reverb and echo.

Saturday, one of the best new torchbearers of the music on the modern scene visit Vermont for the first time when the Brooklyn-based collective Dub Is A Weapon settles in for a two-set show at the Starlite Lounge at the Eclipse Theater in Waitsfield.

Formed three years ago, the band - which New York Magazine called "a sprawling supergroup that combines the spacey atmospherics of dub with the brassy big-band soul of African pop." - has emerged to become a popular prescence on the burgeoning New York City scene, and has begun to spread its roots-inspired gospel with well-received tours in the northeast and Midwest.

The increase in activity reflects (bandleader Dave) Hahn's decision to make the group his "main priority", he said.

Though Saturday's show marks Dub Is A Weapon's Vermont debut, bandleader Dave Hahn is no stranger to the Green Mountain State. In the mid-to-late 1990s, after graduating from Columbia University, the guitarist toured steadily with a plethora of ska-based bands such as The Slackers, Stubborn All-Stars, Skinnerbox and the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, many of which played to packed-house crowds at defunct Burlington nightspot Club Toast.

Hahn, now 30, signed on with Antibalas three years ago and frequently performed with the hugely popular Afrobeat "orchestra" at the recently closed Winooski music hall Higher Ground. More recently, he worked as the sound engineer for the reggae group Easy Star All-Stars, which performed material from its "Dub Side of the Moon" disc at Club Metrnome in Burlington in November, and Trumystic, a former Brooklyn dub-rock crew that's now based in Vermont and opened for dub legend Mad Professor at the Eclipse Theater in Waitsfield in March.

Hahn founded Dub Is A Weapon as a side project around the same time he joined Antibalas, recruiting members of that band's horn section in addition to members of the Stubborn All-Stars.

"I just wanted to make a dub record," said Hahn in a phone interview Monday from his home in Brooklyn. "I had a studio space I'd been sitting on, so I started writing songs."

Recorded gradually over a two-year period, Dub Is A Weapon's self-titled debut CD, released last year, delivers a vintage vibe and classic dub sound that boasts a modern urgency, studio savvy and impressive instrumentation that reveals a command of the music along with a jazz sensibility and subtle rock flourishes. It's a slightly heavier sound that's influenced as much by old-school Jamaican artists like King Tubby and Scientist as it is by 1980s British artists such as Mad Professor and Dub Syndicate, said Hahn.

Throbbing bass lines and popping percussion lay a solid foundation for the mesmerizing grooves, sultry horns, edgy guitar work and tripped-out effects on such standout tracks as the hypnotic opener "D.I.A.W.", the aptly-titled "Indestructible" and the ground-shaking "Chuang Tzu". Though mostly instrumental, the two cuts with vocals are also highlights, especially the catchy "Leave I & I" featuring Rob Symeon of Easy Star All-Stars. Congos founder Ashanti Roy also shines on the haunting "Pray."

A major force in Dub Is A Weapon is legendary Jamaican percussionist Larry McDonald, who has performed with reggae greats such as Peter Tosh, Toots Hibbert and The Skatalites, as well as with blues standouts Taj Mahal and Shemekia Copeland and soulful jazz artists Gil Scott-Heron and David Murray.

Joining Hahn and McDonald at the Eclipse will be Brooklyn musicians Ras Iray of Easy Star All-Stars on bass, Benny Herson on drums, Dave Wake on keyboards and percussion, and Ben Rogerson on guitar. Jordan McLean, the lead trumpeter in Antibalas, will also perform with the group.

"That's really exciting because it's going to be his first time with us," said Hahn of McLean. "He has a really interesting approach and brings his own vibe to the stage, which is always entertaining."

Though translating the studio-suited music to a live setting can prove to be a formidable challenge for dub-based bands, Hahn - who both plays guitar and tweaks the knobs on an on-stage mixing board - said he has learned a lot during the band's live shows the past three years and that it's now "much easier."

The group's performance prowess is revealed on a recently released live CD recorded in January in Chicago, which features all new original material written by Hahn and extended jamming by the musicians.

"We stretch the songs out a lot live," he said. "It's more about trying to find the real spirit of each groove. We take our time and enjoy ourselves a little bit more, and have some nice jazz-tinged solos and stuff like that."

"We're not trying to swing, but we are trying to make our rhythm section really, really groove," Hahn added. "I want people to dance. It's a great dance party, but it's sort of like an acquired taste."

by Tom Huntington - Barre Montpelier Times-Argus - May 7, 2004

"Get Out Now - Music Pick"

Dub is a music of borrowed tradition, taking preexisting recordings amplified by bass, drums and trance-inducing background noise to put forth a mellow, hypnotic dance beat all its own. The group Dub Is A Weapon brings together reggae veterans with some of New York City's bes newcomers when they visit Starr Hill Wednesdasy, June 23. The seven-member ensemble, fronted by Dave Hahn (Antibalas, Easy Star All-Stars) and Larry McDonald (Peter Tosh, Taj Mahal) has a brassy sound that tilts subtly in the direction of jazz.

- Charlottesville Weekly - 6/22-6/28/04

"Get Out: Music Worth Leaving the House to Hear"

Dub reggae affected various strains of music from its inception in Jamaica to the beats in electronic music and the rhythms in post-punk groups. Brooklyn group Dub Is A Weapon sticks close to the originators, with heavy echo effects driven by bass percussion. Even though they're a young group, they've worked with roots dub heavies like Ashanti Roy of the Congos, one of the first Lee Perry outfits, and share a member with Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. Sounds like a good summer Saturday night.

-Chris Toenes - Independent Weekly (Durham, NC) - June 23-29, 2004

"Live Music Pick: 9.22.04"

Dub Is A Weapon: Armed and Dangerous

This New York collective, fronted by Antibalas guitarist Dave Hahn and Jamaican percussion great Larry McDonald, puts modern production techniques to the time-honored dub traditions pioneered by Lee "Scratch" Perry and Augustus Pablo. Rafter-rattling, echo-laden bass and drums are punctuated with stinging snatches of guitar and horns that sometimes skitter off into the stratosphere. It's a tunefully twisted take on the hazy style of reggae distinguished by instrumental tracks that seem to appear and disappear randomly.

by Shane Harrison - Atlanta Jounral- Constitution

"Vibes Pick: 9.22.04"

Combining elements of dub, Afrobeat, soul, jazz and a decidedly insurrectionary tone, Brooklyn-based abstract roots coalition Dub Is A Weapon drops on Atlanta like a bomb. The group's fiery blend of militaristic reggae beats and brash horns evoke a sensually and conceptually thunderous rumble that's as volatile as it is didactic.

by Chad Radford - Creative Loafing - Atlanta

"Dub Is A Weapon brings island sound to Stella Blue"

For some of us, reggae music begins and ends with Bob Marley. But much like jazz, the genre is wildly divers with subcategories like rocksteady, ska, dancehall, lovers rock and the newly re-emerging dub, just to name a few. For Brooklyn band Dub Is A Weapon, the legacy of Jamaican music is not owned by just one man or an island.

"Dub describes a feeling more than a genre," said bandleader Dave Hahn. "There is a wide range of dub that isn't strictly reggae music. Sure, you could link what we do back to the dub that started in 1960s Jamaica, but it isn't exactly the same as the source."

In fact, Hahn thinks a lot of what is being deemed dub today is not described from a purist's perspective but rather a lay term for a certain aesthetic shared by various recordings.

"You can't really define it," said Hahn, "There's improvisation and a certain sound, you just know it when you hear it."

Typically on tour as a member of someone else's band, former Antibalas player Hahn finally decided to make Weapon a full-time occupation. "Being on the road is such a sacrifice, it takes you away from family and friends and causes you to put everyting else on hold. Because I've written all the compositions this time, it's so satisfying. And having been a sideman thinkings I could do this better, be more organized, have more control. That can happen now."

Hahn recently released the band's first album simply titled Dub Is A Weapon with a primarily instrumental lineup. "We're playing roots reggae beats with electronic elements superimposed ober that. I would hesitate to put out a completely vocal free record. But that's where dub comes from. Vocal tracks that got remixed and turn into a B-side."

And if the legacy of dub is creativity and inclusion, then Hahn and band are living by example. "These bands have historically been integrated, no so black and white. And that's saying something because you really don't see a lot integrated bands in general. I think musicians as the most socially liberal and open minded types around, but this just doesn't easily happen."

Instead, it's the music that flows freely. "Any music can be owned by anyone," he said. "But if you do something with honest intentions, then there can't be anyting wrong with that. Being genuine makes it valid."

by Amy Jones - Asheville Citizen-Times - 6/25/04


"Vaporized" - 2011 (Harmonized)
"Armed & Dangerous" - 2007 Vinyl Release (Jump Up)
"Armed & Dangerous" - 2006 (Dub Patrol)
"Live & Direct: Chicago, IL" - 2004 (Dub Patrol)
"Dub Is A Weapon" - 2003 (Dub Patrol)



"It can’t be done, man!” That’s what Dave Hahn, mastermind behind Dub Is A Weapon, heard when he first floated the idea of a live dub group, as he and his mates listened to some prime 1960s King Tubby cuts in the band van. “Everyone seemed to think you could only do dub in the studio,” Hahn recalls.

Hahn set out to prove them wrong, with skills learned live and on the road, and with help from a Jamaican beatnik percussionist, an old high school friend, and young upstarts from the Brooklyn scene. Together they’ve honed their live take on the genre’s spaced-out grooves, a sound felt in full force on Vaporized (Harmonized Records; April 26, 2011) and on stage on their upcoming March/April tour.

Hahn had been kicking around the New York music scene for a while. He’d played ska with The Slackers and the Stubborn All-Stars, and Afrobeat with Antibalas. He worked as a dub engineer for the Easy Star All-Star’s Dub Side of the Moon tour. But he wanted to make a dub record of his own: The music had the modal appeal of Coltrane, but was built for the dance floor.

“Dub hooked me in,” explains Hahn. “It really reminded me of modal jazz with its static harmony, which gives musicians lots of freedom to explore and encourages listeners to contemplate what musicians are thinking about. At the same time, dub and reggae are dance music, even if you have that same meditative quality.”

This perfect mix of pensive and driving rolls through Dub Is A Weapon’s music. Hahn finds dub inspiration everywhere: in the complex interlocking grooves he mastered with Antibalas, the intense snowfall on Hokkaido, or in a simple melody plunked out on a piano. He crafts a bass line, then builds from there. The vibe is trippy, but with a fire and edge that give Dub Is A Weapon’s music real punch. This is music for serious dance floor moves, not spacey evenings on the couch.

Witness the funky polyrhythm of tracks like “Turbulence,” with its dubbed-out, 3-against-4 beat and Ethiopian-inspired waves of brass. Or “Turmoil,” with its dueling bass lines, shifting sections, and blissed-out solos. Hahn saw “Forwarding Home,” featuring vocals by Rob Symeon as a round, swirling around rich modal melodies and guitar licks that flirt with both major and minor moments. Through it all, a powerful stream of dreamy, gritty effects flows in and out.

Figuring out how to make psychedelic studio sounds burn up the dance floor took years of experimentation, of trying things on the fly in illegal Brooklyn loft nightclubs or on tour as Lee “Scratch” Perry’s backing band. Eventually, Hahn got it: He wasn’t leading a band, he was riding the faders.

“At first I really struggled with getting the band to create dub that felt as powerful as what I could create in the studio. I finally figured out I had to think of each musician as a fader on the mixing board, cuing them to drop out and come back in so I could replicate the dub mix I had in mind.”

To make dub happen live, Hahn worked with a shifting group of friends, including bassist Dan Jeselsohn from the New York’s Mephiskapheles to jam and record with him at his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio. Soon a multigenerational core of strong musicians emerged.

These included percussionist Larry McDonald, who had played on several crucial Bob Marley cuts in Jamaica and had since backed up American icons from Taj Mahal to Gil-Scott Heron to Bad Brains—moves that earned him the sometime nickname of “Original Beatnik.” Ben Rogerson, equally at home on the bass or guitar, was a friend of Hahn’s since high school when they played in the jazz band together. Drummer Madhu Siddappa and Hahn met at a mysterious rehearsal session with Lauryn Hill, who came in, tried some songs, and wandered out. Sax ingénue Maria Eisen joined the group straight out of college.

Vaporized captures the group’s diverse energy in a way that mirrors their live shows. The band played and did the dub effects live, with next to no overdubs or post-take tweaking, at a studio run by a friend, the sound engineer for reggae band John Brown’s Body. “It’s like a jazz record from 1950s,” notes Hahn. “We did a couple takes of each song, then picked the one that sounded best. We laid the stuff down and made it happen.”

“It’s like hearing us live,” he continues, “when you can feel all the drama of dub as parts come in and out. That’s what’s exciting about our music: We never play things the same way twice.”

Jeff Sackman